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Son Honors Father Through Red Cross Service

Father’s Day is a day to honor dads for all they do. This Sunday, June 19, will be the 39th observation of Father’s Day in the United States since President Richard Nixon made the holiday a permanent celebration in 1972.

For almost 40 years, dads have been receiving gifts like ties and gadgets. But for Matthew Oclander, a junior at West Springfield High School near Washington, D.C., his affiliation with the American Red Cross is the perfect way to honor his dad, Lt. Col. David Oclander.

Serving with the U.S. Army, Lt. Col. Oclander is currently assigned to the Pentagon. He has seen several deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. It was during one of these deployments that Matthew discovered a Red Cross program that would help him pay tribute to his father.

Matthew heard about the Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign which collects holiday cards and delivers them to wounded warriors, deployed service members, military families and veterans. He found comfort in helping with the cards that eventually find their way to service members who cannot be home with family for the holidays. Matt has participated every year since the card program began, sorting cards with former First Lady Laura Bush, and speaking publicly about why he participates in the card campaign.

“Being part of the Holiday Mail program is a very personal thing for Matthew,” his father said. “He’s been with it since the beginning. Matt’s a great kid with a huge heart.”

Matt learned of the Holiday Mail campaign from his mom, LTC Martha Foss, and agreed to volunteer his time and help sort cards. “It was awesome,” he said. “Volunteering with the Red Cross is an amazing opportunity. The people you meet are great – they do it for all the right reasons.”

Matt is currently enjoying his time with his dad. However, he will have another very personal reason to take part in the Holiday Mail program again this year: Matthew’s mother is now serving in Afghanistan.

If you would like to become a Red Cross volunteer, there are many different programs available. Your local chapter can give you more information on the opportunities available in your area - from responding to disasters to supporting a blood drive, from delivering messages to members of the military to connecting families displaced by disasters or conflict.